By Rob Rains
The first decision the Cardinals will have to make as they get ready for the delayed 2020 season is which players to include in a 60-man roster pool, which will make up both the active roster and the taxi squad based at the Double A facility in Springfield.
The Cardinals have to submit their list of those 60 players to the commissioner’s office by Sunday.
John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, has said the team intends to bring 44 players to St. Louis to begin working out next week. The additional 16 players will be assigned to the taxi squad in Springfield, with those workouts set to begin around July 14.
When the season begins on July 23 or 24, the Cardinals will be allowed to carry 30 players on the active roster for the first two weeks. The roster will then be cut to 28 players for two weeks, and then will drop to 26 for the remainder of the season. The team is expected to open the season with 16 pitchers on the roster.
The players trimmed from the roster, both during training camp and then during the first month of the season, will be assigned to Springfield.
Normal 40-man roster rules will apply during the season as far as options, etc., are concerned, and players will be allowed to move up or down as injuries and the team’s needs dictate moves.
Mozeliak has said it is likely that the Springfield roster will include several of the organization’s top prospects, even if they are not ready to play in the majors, as a way to get them involved in at least some sort of baseball activities this summer – basically as if they were attending an instructional league camp.
Some of those players will then likely be assigned to play in a fall league, if MLB is able to organize one despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In a “normal” year, the Cardinals would be expected to have between 45 and 50 players appear in a major-league game, so they will make sure they have MLB-ready players in that group at Springfield in case they are needed at some point in St. Louis.
Here is a guess how a potential list of the 44 players heading to St. Louis might look, followed by the additional 16 players who make sense for the taxi squad spots in Springfield, and an analysis of those decisions:
Seventeen of the people on this list have major-league experience and another, Kwang Hyun Kim, was signed as a free agent from Korea over the winter. This group includes the likely starting rotation of Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright.
The bullpen group should include Genesis Cabrera, Junior Fernandez, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Miller, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Alex Reyes and Tyler Webb.
Unless he is injured, Brett Cecil will be one of the players coming to St. Louis. Prospects Jake Woodford and Zack Thompson are certain to be included and it would make sense to include Matthew Liberatore as well just to keep him involved and learning from the veteran pitchers on the roster.
Kodi Whitley was impressive in spring training and deserves to be in this group, as does former first-round pick Rob Kaminsky. Mozeliak has mentioned Austin Gomber, hurt much of last season, as a candidate to eat up innings so he will no doubt he on the list as well.
The final spot goes to Jordan Hicks, coming off Tommy John surgery, with a big unknown of when he actually will be able to pitch. The original pre-shutdown estimate was that he could be in line to pitch in the majors in mid July or August, but that was after being able to get in some work in the minor leagues, which now of course can’t happen.
There are three obvious choices – Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters and Andrew Knizner. With so many pitchers in camp, however, it makes sense to bring along two more catchers to spread the work around.
Ivan Herrera, who has developed into a top prospect and likely would have been playing in Springfield this year, makes sense to be one of them, with the other spot likely going to either Julio Rodriguez or Dennis Ortega.
The seven regulars who will be on the opening day roster, barring injuries, are Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong, Matt Carpenter, Tommy Edman, Brad Miller and Rangel Ravelo.
Two other infielders it makes sense to include, before all likely head to Springfield, are Edmundo Sosa and Nolan Gorman. Gorman, like Liberatore, can pick up valuable information and get to know a little bit about Busch Stadium during those first two weeks of workouts.
The quartet of Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, Lane Thomas and Tyler O’Neill will be on the list. Justin Williams and Austin Dean are the other outfielders on the 40-man roster.
That leaves one spot, which of course should go to Dylan Carlson, and he might be the most interesting player to watch during the camp.
The Cardinals’ top prospect should be on the 30-man opening day roster, but the business side of the game likely will leave him off that list for at least five days.
That is how long Carlson needs to miss to give the Cardinals an extra year of control over his contract, based on service time. The 60-game season will count as a full year of service time, and just by missing those few days, Carlson would fall short of being credited for that service time.
Taxi squad (16)
Fourteen of the players coming to St. Louis to start training camp will eventually be headed to Springfield as the roster is trimmed, but in addition the Cardinals can have 16 other players report directly to Springfield.
Here is who would be on our list:
Pitchers Johan Oviedo, Griffin Roberts, Angel Rondon, Ricardo Sanchez and two pitchers drafted last year, Tony Locey and Andre Pallante, should be included in this group.
The extra infielders should be John Nogowski, Elehuris Montero and Mateo Gil with outfielders Jhon Torres and Trejyn Fletcher joining the group.
That adds up to 11 – which leaves spots for the top three picks from this year’s draft – third baseman Jordan Walker, two-way player Masyn Winn and right-hander Tink Hence. Putting those three on the roster would give them time to get to know their new teammates and coaches, begin their indoctrination into the Cardinals system and not allow this summer to be a wasted year of development, even if they are not able to play in official minor-league games.
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